Investigation into sex-assault allegations against ex-chief ‘delicate’, lengthy
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/03/2022 (329 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
RCMP officers have interviewed more people in their investigation into a former First Nations chief accused of luring and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.
Raymond Keeper was chief of Little Grand Rapids First Nation when police charged him with eight offences, including sexual assault with a weapon, last October.
Despite facing charges, the 65-year-old ran for re-election the following month. He received the lowest number of votes.
When the charges were announced, police said they believe there were more victims.
RCMP confirmed Monday no further charges have been laid, but indicated the investigation has progressed and new interviews have taken place.
“The investigation is still ongoing, as officers have interviewed other people with more to be identified and spoken to,” spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre wrote in an email.
By speaking to them, police “will get a better understanding if they were victimized or may have just been a witness or perhaps no involvement at all or a reluctance to get involved,” said Manaigre.
He described it as a “delicate investigation,” with “a considerable amount of work” still to be done.
Keeper is due in provincial court in Little Grand Rapids on March 23.
His lawyer, Tim Valgardson, declined to comment.
Previously, RCMP said they received a report Sept. 23, 2021 of inappropriate text messages between a man and a 16-year-old girl. Keeper was arrested in the remote community Oct. 21.
He is facing charges of child luring, two counts of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, being a person in a position of authority and touching for a sexual purpose, careless storage of a restricted firearm, possession of a restricted firearm without a licence and possession of a firearm obtained by the commission of an offence, according to the RCMP and court records.
The sexual assaults are alleged to have occurred in July and September.
In addition to the Little Grand Rapids detachment, the RCMP’s child exploitation unit and major crime services have been involved in the investigation.
Little Grand Rapids is about 265 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg near the Manitoba-Ontario boundary. It is accessible only by air and winter road.
Keeper was also known to visit Winnipeg, said police.
A Free Press reporter spoke to him last July after the community was evacuated and residents flown to Winnipeg while forest fires burned in east-central Manitoba.
Residents said they believe Keeper is still residing in the community.
Keeper was seeking another term as chief when he was charged. After facing calls to resign, his name was on the ballot when residents voted in a band council election Nov. 29.
He received 96 votes, according to a band official working in Little Grand Rapids’ Winnipeg office.
Oliver Owen, the founder and owner of Amik Aviation, became the new chief with 259 votes, while the second-place candidate had 243.
The election was originally scheduled for July 2021, but was pushed back due to the evacuation.
“I don’t know what would have happened if somebody who’s been accused (of a crime) would have been (voted) in,” said Owen.
He said the community is waiting for the case to clear a “backlog” in the courts.
“This needs to (be resolved) so the community can go forward by healing,” said Owen, who served a four-year term as chief starting in 1989.
The RCMP have asked anyone with information about Keeper to call the Little Grand Rapids detachment at 204-397-2249.
Klinic Community Health can receive third-party reports from survivors of sexual assault 16 years and older anywhere in Manitoba. This allows sexual assault victims to give information to police without having to speak directly to an officer or make a formal report.
In that process, a complainant completes a form with help from a crisis worker, and is anonymous when the information is sent to police.
Klinic’s crisis line is 204-786-8631 or toll free at 1-888-292-7565.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 6:13 AM CST: Fixes cutline